Mobile Game uses Micro-transactions to Harness Virtual Economy
“Parallel Kingdom – Age of Emergence” is the third game in the Parallel Kingdom series available for iPhone/iPod Touch and Google Android phones. Every version of Parallel Kingdom has been free to download and free to play. The game has classic, Legend of Zelda style graphics, but the real time multiplayer and GPS integration make it a technologically advanced mobile game. In its short history, the Parallel Kingdom franchise has pioneered several firsts: first real-time MMORPG for iPhone and Android, and the first location-based MMORPG on iPhone and Android. Now the developer, PerBlue, is continuing to take the game into new territory – a micro-transaction based mobile economy.
In the MMO genre, virtual economies are common and almost inevitable in some cases. In Parallel Kingdom, a de facto in-game economy naturally evolved when the developers first gave players the ability to drop items on the ground and transfer gold directly from player to player. This style of trading was unregulated and led to scamming in which players would drop items on the ground for trade only to be picked up by the other player who sometimes never sent any gold. Even with these limitations, a very active economy flourished in the game.
In the new version, a consummable resource called “Food” is required for some features. Every new player starts with some for free, and they can get more by purchasing it in the game or trading with other players. This allows players to acquire more of this resource without having to pay money if they don’t want to.
In addition, trade posts and cities have been introduced. These allow players to trade with each other safely and securely. Players put items up for sale and other players visiting the city can browse and buy anything they come across. This has led to many players making careers in the game solely as traders, visiting trade posts, scouting out good deals and selling in another city.
The most remarkable aspect of this virtual economy is that it exists entirely in a mobile game. According to a TechCrunch article, only 20% of free iPhone apps downloaded are used after the first day, and only 5% of users continue to use an app 30 days after download (see citation). These numbers do not seem to be very friendly to developers looking to cash in on longer term users through micro-transactions.
However, Parallel Kingdom developer CEO, Justin Beck, says, “Parallel Kingdom is looking to tap a different audience. Right now casual gamers are all the hype, and many developers are sacrificing good, in-depth game play to try to attract them. In the end, the committed long term players is where most of our recurring revenue comes from.
When looking at our statistics, we see committed players playing every day for months. Parallel Kingdom is not about touting a large number of downloads, but taking the slower route to building an amazing game, community, and entertainment service that players love.”